Descriptions… Creating the Perfect World…
The smile Cadence bestowed upon him was undoubtedly the most brilliant he’d ever seen and for a moment, Curtis was certain heaven had opened its gate just enough to let a glimmer of light shimmer upon the mere mortals and sinners. For half a heartbeat he dared to believe she was one of the lost angels his grandmother had so oft spoken of. Surely she was one of them, fallen from the heavens, adrift on the earth to help lost souls find their way. No one had ever smiled at him that way, and when she plied him with those huge amethyst eyes, he wasn’t just lost…
He was wrecked.
Oh, but she shouldn’t look at him that way, as though he were some sort of hero, because he wasn’t. She shouldn’t look at him with all the innocent trust in the world glistening at the surface of her eyes because it was downright dangerous. And it was dangerous because, even though heknew he shouldn’t, he liked having her look at him that way. He wanted it. Craved it. Deep down in the farthest reaches of his soul he wanted to be her white knight, and it made him remember when he hadn’t been a total bastard, and it made him want a whole world of things he couldn’t begin to dream of having.
How many of us have watched a movie or read a book and thought… I could have written a better ending to that story…? I know I have, and it goes to show that coming up with a stellar story idea is not always the most difficult task for writers. So, you ask, what is the most difficult task for writers? Getting that amazing story idea on paper in a way that sucks readers into the book.
Descriptions, ranging from scenery to character emotions, are a key element in creating the world of your story. In the above excerpt from ANGEL AND THE UNFORGIVEN rather than say—Cadence smiled at Curtis—the hero describes what he sees in the heroine’s smile…
So how do you make ordinary wording and sentence structure extraordinary?
Here are a few tips for drawing readers into your story:
1. First of all remember that writing fiction is fun! You can bend and break a few of those little rules English teachers spent years drilling into your head. You can begin a sentence with a conjunction—in moderation of course… use sentence fragments… and a slew of other “rules” the English professors loved to ding your grades for.
2. Remember that small details make the difference between a must read and a so-so story no matter how amazing the plot. Don’t just tell me your character sees a dog—describe the dog for me. For example:
A wagon clattered down the down the road, a dog panting at the back wheel.
A wagon clattered down the muddy road, a floppy eared, yellow mutt panting at the back wheel.
Which sentence gives the better visual?In the second sentence we learn that the road is muddy. How would your visual change if the road was described as dusty or the dog described as rangy?
3. The thesaurus is your best friend. If a word seems overused and boring it probably is.
Take for instance the word walked—several synonyms include strode, sauntered, ambled, loped and each has it’s own connotation for how the character is walking. For example:
Brian walked toward the study door.
Brian ambled toward the study door.
Brian sauntered toward the study door.
Find the word or synonym that best describes your character’s action and use it. If you’re stuck go ahead and insert the more generic word and go back later.
4. Bringing back our English teacher… I’d like to point out the necessity of tools such as metaphors and personification in creating descriptions that are artful and grip your reader.
The chilly breeze whispered a prudent warning to the riders cantering deeper into the forest.
We know the breeze isn’t really whispering, or warning, but it certainly adds to the setting and overall feel of the scene.
5. Never underestimate the power of rewrites and a read through (or two or three) in finding new and better ways to improve your story and descriptions.
6. Use action words—instead of saying to turn use turned
The smell was enough to turn Lydia’s stomach.
The smell turned Lydia’s stomach.
7. Stay away from words that deter from the strength of your sentences—that, almost, it, to.
8. Also avoid from passive voice whenever possible. In a nutshell passive voice is ‘has been’ or ‘have been’ followed by an –ing word. Was is another passive word, but one that I personally have trouble staying away from.
Now tell me… Writers what are your tricks of the trade? And readers what draws you into a story?
To learn more about me, my March release ANGEL AND THE UNFORGIVEN, and other books and projects visit www.melissalynneblue.com.
To purchase ANGEL AND THE UNFORGIVEN visit http://www.champagnebooks.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=19_4&products_id=367
Adore the title of your new book! Lots of good information. We appreciate your sharing, and will implement your advice.
As a reader, it is descriptions like your excerpt that draw me into a book. When I read I want to get caught up and lost in the story ~ not just read along and plan my shopping list at the same time.
Wonderful and helpful post. Thanks for sharing Melissa.
Great tips, Melissa!
Big Mike, you are so right about when to stop rewriting. I personally could go on forever.
Great points, Melissa. One problem I have is when to quit rewriting. I now set a limit and if I only make less than 10 changes per pass, I’m done.
Your big bud
Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the year, 4/09
Thanks, Phyllis 🙂
I have learned a lot from you, Melissa! Great blog!
Hi, Kaylin! Thanks for stopping by…
Great tips, Melissa! Thank you. 😀